Dough Doctor: Pizza Pans

Pizza PansQ: I’m getting ready to open my first store soon and I’m looking at the different pizza pans that are available. The anodized finish pans are more expensive than the bright, spun aluminum pans. Are they really worth the extra cost?

A: In my humble opinion, yes, the anodized finish pans are worth every penny of the difference in cost. When you consider that the bright finish pans need to be seasoned by wiping the pans/trays lightly with salad oil, and then baked in an oven at 425 F for about 20 minutes to begin the seasoning process and as you continue to use the pans, the color of the pans will continue to darken to an almost black color in time. These pans, once seasoned, should never be allowed to soak in a sink of hot, soapy water. To do so can result in the seasoned finish coming off of the pan in large pieces, much like a bad sunburn. When this happens, the only thing to do is to begin stripping the finish off of all of your seasoned pans and starting the process all over again. If you don’t strip all of your pans, you will end up with some of the of the pans having a lighter color than others with the lighter and darker colored pans having different baking properties.

The dark colored anodized pans that are available to us today are have an extremely durable finish that holds up well to the rigors of everyday use in a pizzeria. They can be soaked in hot, soapy water, they can be put away wet, and if you dare, you can even use metal spatulas to help lift a deep dish pizza out of the pan without damaging the finish. For the most part, the finish will last as long as the pan.

I just purchased some new anodized finish pans, and the instructions that I got with the pans say to season the pans before I use them. I thought these pans didn’t need to be seasoned?

What they mean by “seasoning” is to lightly oil the pans for their first use. New pans of this type should be thoroughly washed to remove any manufacturing residue. They should then be thoroughly dried by passing the pans through an oven for two minutes set at 400 F. The pans can then be put away until needed. To use the pans for the first time, lightly wipe the inside of each pan with a little salad oil, apply your dough, make-up and bake your pizza(s) in the normal manner. Depending upon the finish on your pans/disks, you may never need to oil them again. Some finishes will require that you re-oil the pans again only after a washing. You will need to determine if your pans will need to be re-oiled or not, but in either case, during the course of the day, the pans/disks should not need to be re-oiled unless you are making a deep dish/pan style pizza and in that case the oil is added only to improve the baking properties and to achieve a fried characteristic to the crust, not to facilitate release of the crust from the pan.

Tom Lehmann is a director at the American Institute of Baking in Manhattan, Kansas.